Video: Special Education 101: ARD
When you open the door to your child’s first Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting, you might see educators you don’t know and hear proposed goals for your child that you’d very much like to talk about. Here are some helpful tips from parents and educators so you can be prepared and share your opinion about what is best for your child.
What is the ARD Process?
The ARD is a specific meeting where teachers and other support staff bring their expertise on education, and you bring your expertise on your child – their needs, abilities, and desires, and your expectations. Together, you write the Individualized Education Program (IEP). You might hear parents call this the Individualized Education Plan, but it is really a full program of services to help your child. As the people who know our children best, our knowledge is critical to getting the right IEP together.
Here are some common reasons for an ARD meeting for a child who is approved to get special education services.
- Your child has just started school.
- Your child just got a diagnosis or new assessments.
- You are new to the district.
- It’s time for your child’s yearly review (also called an annual ARD).
- You or your child’s teacher is asking for a change in the IEP.
- Your child is transitioning from academic to job or life-skills training.
- Your child is transitioning out of special education services – or transitioning out of public education entirely.
- Your child is having behavior challenges that get in the way of their education.
- Your child has either mastered or isn’t making progress on IEP goals.
Before the ARD Meeting
You will have the chance – and the right – to ask any questions you have at the ARD meeting. Many parents find that preparing in advance for the ARD meeting helps them feel more confident and have a better discussion about their children’s needs.
Here are some things you can do to prepare:
- Write down anything you’ve noticed about your child’s academics and functionality. Functionality covers a lot of things, like the ability to hold a pencil, social skills, or being able to count change correctly.
- Request any new additions to your child’s school records.
- Get copies of any evaluation reports completed before the meeting.
- Write down any of your child’s new behaviors (both good and bad) and any new concerns that you have about your child.
- Collect all new medical documents of these behaviors.
- Talk to your child’s teacher, coordinator, or special education director about any updates they might have and concerns that you have.
Doing this work beforehand can help your child’s ARD committee (which includes you) draft your child’s IEP goals. And it can keep you from having any surprises when the committee is making decisions in the ARD meeting.
Who Attends an ARD Meeting?
Depending on your child’s situation and needs, their ARD meeting might include the following people:
- You – as the parent.
- Your child. Beginning at age 18, your student must attend their ARD committee meeting. You aren’t required to be in the ARD meeting after this time, but you are always notified and may attend if you are invited. Likewise, your child can attend at any age if you and your child decide they are ready.
- Your child’s regular education teacher.
- Your child’s special education teacher or teachers.
- At least 1 school district representative who:
- Can give instruction to meet your child’s needs.
- Knows about general education curriculum.
- Knows about school district resources.
- Can translate any evaluations into a classroom instruction plan.
- Anyone else invited by you or the school district.
This group is called the ARD committee (also called an ARD team).
What to Expect in an ARD Meeting
Each school district is going to have its own ARD meeting requirements. Some meetings will be long, and some will be short. Some will have a lot of people, and some will have a few. But here are a few things to be aware of:
- The committee will decide if your child has a disability and an educational need that lets them get special education and related services, if appropriate. Texas has a list of disabilities that qualify, including multiple disabilities, intellectual disability, and autism. Once your child is approved to get special education, all of your child’s educational needs must be considered in developing their IEP.
- In many school districts, going around the room, every teacher and therapist might read goals and objectives for your child. At any time during these presentations, you may ask questions and ask for copies of those notes and reports.
- The committee will look at your child’s latest measures of academic performance, including statewide testing, like the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) and others. They’ll also look at your child’s performance in the classroom and their level of functioning.
- The committee will decide on the type of special education services your child will need, including accommodations (things that support your child in the classroom), modifications (changes to what is expected of your student), and educational placement.
- At the end of the ARD meeting, you should be clear about the goals being recommended for every part of your child’s school day, which could include:
- Physical accommodations your child needs.
- Support for tracking homework assignments, moving in between classes, or other life skills that are hard for them to complete on their own.
- Bus transportation, including the kind of bus.
- If your child is able to go to an Extended School Year (ESY). Teachers recommend this service mainly for students who will lose skills over the summer that they can’t easily regain once school starts again.
- Once the ARD meeting is done, and the IEP is created, it will be passed around for everyone to sign.
- When you sign, you can say whether you agree or disagree with the IEP.
- If you are comfortable with the IEP and think it’s a good plan for your child, you can sign that you agree.
- If you disagree with some or all of the decisions of the ARD committee, you can write down what areas you disagree with and note that you disagree on the document. You can also ask for another meeting to further discuss the areas where you disagree.
- You don’t have to sign the IEP.
- You can have more time before you sign.
- You can ask for another meeting to discuss the parts of the IEP where you disagree.
- If you think that you need more changes to the IEP, you can ask for a new meeting at any time.
If you and the school still can’t come to an agreement on the IEP, the school must start using an IEP it decides is appropriate for your child. The school has to give you notice that this will happen. You have multiple choices and rights at this point. See our When You’re Having Trouble Getting the Right Services for Your Child page to learn more, and read on.
What Do I Bring to the ARD?
- Personal knowledge. All the educational language you hear in this meeting cannot replace your own gut instincts. After all, you are the world’s biggest expert on your child.
- A notebook and pen for jotting down comments and ideas from committee members. Recorders are also allowed.
- A friend, spouse, or advocate. It is helpful to let the school know beforehand whom you might bring and how many people so they can be ready.
- Copies of any test results or medical reports about your child that you haven’t shared with the school yet.
- A list of instructional and behavioral accommodations that work for your child at home, including any assistive technology.
Special ARD Considerations
If parents and educators can’t reach an agreement on any part of the IEP, then you and the school might agree to a facilitated ARD committee meeting. This is when a person trained in getting people to reach agreement comes in to help with the ARD meeting. If both you and the school agree, you can ask for an independent ARD facilitator from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to help you come to an agreement on an IEP. If you and the school still can’t agree on an IEP at this meeting, you may request mediation (where another person with expertise comes in to try to settle the disagreement). This is not part of the ARD process.
You can also file a complaint or ask for a due process hearing with the TEA. To find out more, see our When You’re Having Trouble Getting the Right Services for Your Child page.
Transition and ARDs
When your child turns 14 years old, or younger if necessary, their ARD meetings start to include a focus on adulthood. For starters, your child will be invited to the meeting, and in some cases, might lead it. The school is obligated to “ensure that a child’s interests and preferences are considered.”
From here on out, the ARDs (and IEPs) will focus more and more on education after high school, job interests, career training, connecting with community services, and independent living. If your child is graduating with less than the required number of credits, they have rights to services after graduation that should be included in their IEP. See our Transitioning Out of Public Education page to learn more.
There are certain conditions that have to be included in an ARD, such as:
Advice From Parents
”Be flexible, and work with teachers and administrators. Most want the best for the kids.”
“Don’t be afraid to disagree.”
”Do not expect staff to know your pain. Network with other parents for understanding.”
“If your child is not part of the ARD meeting, bring a picture to place in the middle of the table, so that everyone knows your child.”